Actaeon

The warm breeze filled my face as I headed for home. Signs of the hunt still lingered in the air. My hounds yelped and hovered about my feet, still full of energy, even after they've taken down five grown stags. Oh, yes, it was a bountiful night. I must remind myself to offer a sacrifice to the gods for being so good to me. Especially to the goddess of the hunt, for she has certainly helped me in my hunt tonight.

We were nearly there, when I felt something around me. The feeling tingled, and it filled all of my senses. It was this gnawing feeling that perhaps I've left behind something behind in my wake. Could it be that? Was there any forgotten game left to be caught? Some secret treasure? A new creature in the dead of night?

I strung my bow, and became alert. My hounds, to my surprise, knew nothing of my caution. Careful not to rouse them to rage, I gave my hounds an affectionate pat on each head. If there was any game left, I would be more than enough to handle it. After all, I am swift of foot and far of sight. My hounds remained near the shrove of bushes as I set out in following my instincts.

Maybe I should have left this unhunted game for another time. Maybe the gods were playing tricks on my mind. And perhaps they were having a good laugh in their heavenly mountain. But the growing sensation in my mind will not cease to irritate me. It is haunting me, like the bright eyes of an unseen deity. It is moving me to a passion, and I find myself running quickly through the brushes.

On and on I went, further and further from the trail. A sudden movement in the trees, and my arrow was loosened. Nothing but a small rabbit fell at my feet. Was this delicate piece of meat the game I had been feeling? No…that feeling haunts me still. I am desperately losing my patience.

I could still feel it in the air. The whispering of the forest led me to another trail. This one was less traveled by. The dirt was still fresh, and no markings could be found. I gave a small prayer and continued on now in a frenzy. What did I hear? Peals of laughter? The rushing of water? Perhaps it is a cave, and a few of the forest's inhabitants are bathing. Or were these sprites of the forest, just frolicking in the water?

As I reached the clearing, I glanced at a small waterfall at the back. But I also saw women. Dazzling females of astounding beauty. They splashed and giggled, drying their clothes and conversing with one another. And among them stood the most beautiful creature of them all.

She had her back turned to me, but once in a while, a small turn of the head can be seen. It was a sight I can never forget! What a lady! Her voice rang like the sweet drops of morning dew and it hummed as majestically as Orpheus' lyre. No mortal woman could compare to her. For what else could she be but a goddess? I believe, by the silver-lit bow and arrows on the side, that the beautiful creature in front of me must be none other than the huntress, lady of the wild things. Her nymphs must have found the grove solitary enough for their mistress.

A thought had just occurred to me. The goddess Artemis had a strong view of chastity! And what do I do but step into her glade and graze my eyes with her beauty? Alas, woe is me! I hid underneath a well concealed brush. My eyes could not tear away from the vision of loveliness in front of me. At once I had forgotten that haunting feeling earlier. All it took was the moon setting upon the earth to bathe itself with loveliness. The gods have blessed me with many gifts. But this may have been their ultimate gift and curse.

Suddenly, the clearing became silent. The wondrous goddess turned rigid. Her servants began to run to her, covering the immortal with their inferior bodies. Ice cold blue eyes turned towards my direction. The moon's gaze pierced me with anger. I have been found doing something that I should never have done.

I shook with fear and bolted from my hiding place. The sound of an angry voice followed behind me. I knew she had spoken them. I felt my legs tingle and my eyes growing dim. Is she punishing me with blindness? Has my crime been too serious?

I fell onto the earth, gasping for breath. There was silence now. Not even a rustle of the wind as it blew through the trees. Nothing. I got up, but I noticed that I am now on all fours. What has happened to me? I cannot walk!

Briefly, like an omen, I hear the howls of dogs. I knew what the sound was, even if I was handicapped by this new form. My hounds have found prey. They are coming. I crawled on all fours to a small stream and looked at my reflection. Nothing could prepare me to what I saw. Antlers grew from my head, and the ears protruded greatly from my furry brown face. The goddess transfigured me into an animal…

The sound of howls and yelps are heard again. They come closer. Are they after me? Am I their new game?

I must get these legs to run. Those hounds will destroy me. My pride and joy will be the end of what I am. Where should I run? They will only fine me eventually. I began to rise and spring forward. I hear them barking ever so closely now.

Out in the clearing, the pack of hounds jumped out. I widen my eyes with fear. They are indeed after me. Can they not recognize that I am their master? Can they not hear my cry for help? Why will they not listen? Perhaps my stench has left them crazed. They smell a stag.

I stumbled, I hurried away. But they are on to my scent now. And I am responsible for training these hounds well…they will not stop until they have killed. And they will not stop once they've smelled a target. I am their target…